The Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy was a fundamental part of a woman’s right to privacy and self-determination; yet today, anti-choice advocates right routinely seek to limit access to safe and affordable abortion services.
On January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is a woman’s constitutionally protected right. This victory was the culmination of decades of advocacy and hard work at a time when millions of women were forced to choose between carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term (including those that were the result of rape or incest) and having an unsafe, potentially life-threatening “back-alley” abortion.
In the decades since Roe, anti-choice organizations, certain religious groups, and some elected officials have worked to undermine and dismantle the decision. They have passed laws and set the stage for court decisions which make it nearly impossible for millions of women to access safe, legal, and affordable abortion services – frequently, for those women who need it the most.
Attacks on Abortion
Attacks on abortion rights frequently take the form of limitations to reproductive health care services. The Hyde Amendment (1976) set a dangerous precedent, prohibiting federal dollars from going to abortion services. This has until now primarily impacted women who rely on Medicare and Medicaid as well as women in the armed forces; however, millions more women covered under the 2010 health insurance reform laws will also be affected. Other laws, frequently on the state level, prevent minors from accessing abortion services without parental consent or notification, allow medical professionals to deny service while failing to provide alternatives, or require waiting periods, multiple visits, or counseling before women can get an abortion. These limitations are compounded by the scarcity of abortion providers: 88% of counties in the U.S. have none. Some states withhold information about abortions or intentionally provide misleading or inaccurate information about abortion to women and girls. For more information on state-level restrictions to abortion, visit this page at the ACLU.
Some limitations have been imposed on when and how women can access abortions. The original Roe decision was a compromise between women’s choice and the government’s “interest;” subsequent court decisions have changed the time frame during which women can exercise their rights and have made certain abortion procedures illegal.
Other strategies employed by anti-choice advocates include so-called “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” (CPCs), which use manipulative messaging and strategies to lure vulnerable pregnant women in before convincing them that abortion is not an option. Finally, , a minority of anti-choice individuals use physical violence and intimidation to frighten women into giving up their right to choose, as evidenced by the tragic murder in 2009 of Dr. George Tiller in 2009.
For more information, or visit NARAL and Planned Parenthood on the web.
Reproductive Rights in Canada
Canada is one of the few nations which has no legal restrictions on abortion services. There are some non-legal barriers to access; particularly, individuals living in extremely rural areas in Canada have limited access to trained providers. Under certain circumstances, some medical professionals can deny service on the basis of conscience, but abortion is guaranteed under the Canada Health Act and in most circumstances is free to the patient.
Similarly, there is good commitment on the part of the Canadian federal and provincial governments to comprehensive sexuality education and high-quality family planning services.
For more information, visit the Canada section at the National Abortion Federation or the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN).